Every year RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, puts together an advocacy event at the Minnesota State Capitol enlisting the help of surrogates, intended parents, professionals in the infertility field, and anyone who has ever been affected by infertility, whether personally or by association, to come together and educate each of their respective legislators and senators on surrogacy and the need for proper regulation to ensure that all parties involved are adequately protected.
Currently, there are no laws in Minnesota that govern surrogacy arrangements, thus making Minnesota unclear as to the rights and responsibilities of surrogates, intended parents, and the children born as the result of these arrangements. This puts Minnesota behind the nationwide trend as 24 states in the past 30 years have created new laws to support surrogacy. The Gestational Carrier Act (HF2593/SF707) was introduced this year to try and address this need for state regulations surrounding surrogacy arrangements.
Supporting Surrogacy and the Gestational Carrier Act
In 2016 the Legislative Surrogacy Commission issued its Majority Report addressing whether surrogacy should be addressed in Minnesota law and if so, how. The commission was comprised of fifteen members, including six members of the Senate with three appointed by the Senate majority and three appointed by the Senate minority leaders; six members of the House of Representatives with three appointed by the Speaker of the House and three appointed by the House minority leader; the commissioner of human services (or her designee); the commissioner of health (or his designee); and a family court referee appointed by the chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. In other words, the commission was made up of people who reflected both those in favor of surrogacy and those generally opposed to it, as well as those who would be directly involved in complying with any laws that regulate surrogacy.
The Gestational Carrier Act reflects the consensus points reached by this commission on surrogacy, meaning it is a bi-partisan bill, garnering support from both parties. This bill would require, among other things, mental and physical exams for potential surrogates and mental health exams for intended parents. It would also require independent legal counsel for surrogates and intended parents to ensure all parties understand their rights and responsibilities.
Those who are opposed to surrogacy and the Gestational Carrier Act generally allege that surrogacy is profit-driven and exploitative. While it is true that the vast majority of surrogates are compensated, the fact of the matter is that they should be. Being a surrogate is no simple endeavor. It requires a woman willing to undergo medical testing and screening, drug protocols, an embryo transfer, prenatal appointments, nine months of pregnancy, and ultimately the delivery of a child. It takes time and energy away from the surrogate's own life and family all so she can provide the gift of a child to someone who could not otherwise have a child without her assistance.
Additionally, compensation may be provided to sperm and egg donors, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, and drug companies for the services they provide in a surrogacy arrangement, so it is not appropriate that surrogates are singled out as the only participant who is not compensated for her services.
Surrogacy arrangements, especially those that would be governed under the Gestational Carrier Act, are clearly not exploitative. The Gestational Carrier Act would require surrogates to have independent legal counsel in addition to mental health and medical exams. Such requirements ensure that surrogates are not only aware of their rights and risks, but that they also fully understand them prior to entering into any surrogacy contract.
It is also important to know that surrogates volunteer to carry a pregnancy for another family. They are neither recruited nor solicited. The vast majority of woman who choose to become surrogates are kind-hearted, educated, economically stable women who feel passionately about giving the gift of a child to a deserving family. In addition, not just anyone can be a surrogate. Under the proposed Gestational Carrier Act, in order to be eligible to a surrogate a woman, at a minimum, has to be at least 21 years of age and have given birth to at least one child so that she has experienced pregnancy and childbirth before and is familiar with the emotions that accompany.
The reality is that surrogacy arrangements, especially ones that would be regulated under the Gestational Carrier Act, are neither profit-driven nor exploitative. The women who are actually eligible to be surrogates have to undergo extensive screening to ensure that they are not only doing this for the right reasons, but are fully informed about all of the risks and responsibilities that are involved with such arrangements. They have to know what it is like to carry a child and what labor and delivery is like for themselves before ever being able to do that for another person or couple.
Post-Advocacy Day: What Now?
The bottom line is that knowledge is power. Our lawmakers need to be educated on what surrogacy really is about and how those is favor of surrogacy want regulations in place to further protect all parties involved and make the entire surrogacy journey safe. Every voice matters. Whether in person or through a letter get in contact with your legislators. Express your support for surrogacy and the Gestational Carrier Act and make your voice count.